Yellen Defends Tariffs, Export Controls in Address to Pro-China Business Group

Emel Akan
By Emel Akan
December 15, 2023US News

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen defended the Biden administration’s China strategy and outlined measures aimed at reducing tensions with Beijing in a speech on Thursday at the U.S.-China Business Council’s 50th anniversary dinner in Washington.

National security would remain a top priority for the United States, she told the members of the business group, which promotes trade between the United States and China.

While pursuing a healthy economic relationship with China, she said, Washington would continue to use “economic tools” to protect U.S. national security interests and human rights in China.

“This is an area where we cannot and will not compromise,” Ms. Yellen said.

President Joe Biden has kept tariffs in place on Chinese goods that were imposed by the Trump administration. In addition, he has expanded export controls to limit China’s access to critical U.S. technologies since last year.

Ms. Yellen started her speech by explaining the Biden administration’s initiatives to strengthen the U.S. economy and national security.

“The Biden administration’s strategy towards China begins with investing at home and rebuilding alliances abroad,” she said.

For too long, she added, “American workers and firms have not been able to compete on a level playing field with those in China.”

She noted that China employs a range of unfair economic practices, including non-market tools, barriers to access for foreign companies, and coercive actions against American firms.

Ms. Yellen, however, reiterated that the United States does not want to decouple from China, as such a move would be “damaging to both our economies and would have negative global repercussions.”

The treasury secretary also listed key priorities for the U.S.-China economic relationship in the coming year, including the need to “responsibly manage” conflicts and global shocks.

“There are many areas on which the U.S. and China strongly disagree. There is also always the risk of shocks that impact both of our countries,” she said, noting that it would be unrealistic to resolve all disagreements or avoid all shocks.

“But we aim to make our communication resilient so that when we disagree, when shocks occur, we prevent misunderstanding from leading to escalation and causing harm.”

“Continuing to stabilize our relationship to prevent escalation won’t make news,” Ms. Yellen added.

The United States will also ask for greater transparency regarding China’s economic policies and policymaking, Ms. Yellen said.

With its current share of nearly 20 percent in the global economy, China’s economic policy decisions have enormous and far-reaching effects on other countries, she added.

Understanding China’s plans, including its response to economic challenges and non-market practices, will enable better policymaking in the United States and help level the playing field for American firms and workers, she noted.

The U.S.-China Business Council has recently come under fire for organizing a dinner meeting between U.S. business executives and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in San Francisco on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in November. The business leaders reportedly paid $40,000 per person for the exclusive meeting with the communist ruler, attracting a lot of criticism.

Among the U.S. executives who were seated at Mr. Xi’s table at the event were Apple’s Tim Cook, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, and Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, according to Bloomberg.

“China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States,” the communist leader said during the meeting with business leaders.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), criticized the event in a letter in November.

“It is unconscionable that American companies might pay thousands of dollars to join a ‘welcome dinner’ hosted by the very same CCP officials who have facilitated a genocide against millions of innocent men, women, and children in Xinjiang,” Mr. Gallagher wrote in a letter to National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, another organizer of the event.

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